Freedom of Information

Pasadena Police Officers Assoc. v. City of Pasadena, Los Angeles Times

July 17, 2017

After the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request for a report regarding an officer-involved shooting, the police officers' union filed a reverse-CPRA lawsuit to prevent the release of the report. Despite obtaining the release of almost the entirety of the report, the Times was awarded only a fraction of its attorneys' fees. The newspaper appealed to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. RCFP, CNPA, and 14 other media organizations argued that reverse-CPRA lawsuits are contrary to both the language and intent of the CPRA and undermine the CPRA's fundamental purpose to provide public access to government records. However, even assuming that reverse-CPRA actions should be permitted in certain circumstances, requesters must be afforded the same protections in reverse-CPRA actions that they are entitled to in any other action brought under the CPRA.

LAPD Bodycam Policy Comments

May 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission concerning the development of a policy for releasing body-worn camera (BWC or bodycam) videos of "critical incidents," such as such as when an individual dies in police custody. The comments highlighted the importance of compliance with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and urged videos of critical incidents to be proactively released to the press and the public.

Comments on proposed OGIS regulations

February 27, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed regulations issued by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on its mediation program. The comments argued that (1) the scope of the proposed rule issued by OGIS was inadequate, and should be revised to cover all of its activities, and (2) that the proposed rule contained unwarranted and unacceptable confidentiality provisions that should be removed.

Release to One, Release to All Comments

December 22, 2016

The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice regarding its implementation of a "Release to One, Release to All" policy for the federal Freedom of Information Act. The comments were based on an RCFP survey of journalists concerning various aspects of posting records responsive to FOIA requests online.

Grabell v. NYPD

August 26, 2016

The Reporters Committee and 14 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of a motion by Michael Grabell, a reporter for ProPublica, for the New York Court of Appeals to hear a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) case concerning access to records on the NYPD's x-ray van (or Z Backscatter Vans) program. The amicus brief argued that the intermediate appellate court's decision below (1) ignored publicly available information about ZBVs and failed to order the release of segregable information, and (2) jeopardized the ability of FOIL to serve as an effective tool for public oversight of law enforcement activities.

Schwartz v. DEA

September 29, 2016

Reporter Mattathias Schwatz filed a FOIA lawsuit challenging the DEA's refusal to release a video of a May 2012 DEA-led raid in Honduras that involved the use of deadly force against civilians. The government maintained the video fell within the scope of Exemption 7(E), which protects law enforcement techniques and procedures. After an in-camera review of the video and several declarations, the district court held that the video was not exempt and ordered it released. The DEA appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit.

Abdur-Rashid and Hashmi v. NYPD

April 14, 2017

Petitioners Talib Abdur-Rashid, an Imam at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, and Samir Hashmi, student and former treasurer of a Muslim Student Association, both sought records pertaining to the NYPD's alleged surveillance of them and their organizations. For both records requests, the NYPD issued Glomar-like denials, stating that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such records. After appeals, the Appellate Division dismissed both petitions, allowing the use of the Glomar doctrine for state records requests. An appeal to the New York Court of Appeals followed. In an amicus brief in support of the petitioners, we argued that use of the Glomar response, a federal, judicial doctrine developed to protect national security interests, should not apply at the state level and would greatly limit the act's effectiveness as a tool for keeping the public informed about the government.

Detroit Free Press v. Dep't of Justice

December 28, 2016

The Detroit Free Press sought to obtain the booking photos of federal indictees who had been publiicly named and had appeared in open court through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The U.S. Marshals Service denied the request, citing Exemption 7(C) of FOIA. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Detroit Free Press. On appeal before the entire circuit court, the Sixth Circuit held that individuals maintain a "non-trival privacy interest" in booking photos. In response, the Detroit Free Press has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. In support of the petition, the Reporters Committee argues that the booking photos of federal indictees do not implicate any cognizable privacy interests under the Constitution or the common law and should not be exempt from FOIA under Exemption 7(C).

OGIS Comments

February 27, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments regarding a proposed rule promulgated by the Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS"). The comments recommend that OGIS expand the scope of the proposed rule to cover all of its statutory functions, and remove secrecy and confidentiality requirements in the proposed rule regarding mediation services. 

Dept. of Justice FOIA Regulations

March 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice on proposed revisions to its Freedom of Information Act regulations. We recommended that all components of the DOJ should accept FOIA requests via email, and that the Office of Information Policy should accept administrative appeals submitted via email.